Can you eat raw quinoa? (5 useful tips)
In this article, we are going to answer the question “Can you eat raw quinoa?”, and the possible side effects of eating it raw.
Can you eat raw quinoa?
Yes, you can eat quinoa raw or uncooked if it is sprouted first.
However, experts advise that you should always cook it and refrain from eating raw sprouts. Sprouted seeds are more palatable than raw seeds and have increased nutritional value.
Germination causes the breakdown of phytates in the seeds, which can cause the malabsorption of vitamins and minerals in the body (1).
Raw quinoa seeds are coated with saponins that have a bitter taste and their main use is to act as insect repellents (1).
Quinoa is a seed and it’s considered to be a “pseudo-grain”, but it offers the same benefits as whole grains. Cooked quinoa is more nutritious and provides more proteins and vitamins than wheat (1 and 2).
What is the nutritional profile of quinoa seeds?
Quinoa is a stress-tolerant food crop. Its seeds pack fibre and protein, making them a focal point in recent food research due to their potential as a gluten-free option. A favourite among vegans, vegetarians, and those with cereal allergies, quinoa seeds hold vitamins (E, C, B complex), minerals (Ca, K, Mg, Fe, Mn, P), high-quality lipids, and isoflavones (1 and 3).
However, they also contain antinutritional elements like saponins (bitter compounds) and phytic acid (a mineral binder). This nutritional richness led the FAO to declare 2013 the ‘Year of Quinoa’ (1).
What are the benefits of consuming quinoa?
This grain rich in health advantages is considered a good companion for individuals seeking to lose weight through a balanced diet and may be ingested in three forms: flour, flakes, and grains.
Loaded with advantageous elements such as flavonoids, which contribute to your well-being, research has validated that quinoa is suitable for regular consumption. Interestingly, all three quinoa colours showed similar effects against bacteria and fungi (2 and 3).
Beyond its nutritional value, quinoa harbours compounds such as tocopherols and organic acids that provide extra advantages for your health. Therefore, making quinoa a part of your meals is both an intelligent and health-conscious decision.
What risks are associated with anti-nutritional factors in raw quinoa?
Anti-nutritional factors, particularly saponins and phytic acid, are present in quinoa. Saponins have a bitter taste and are surface-active compounds made of triterpenoid aglycone or steroid with sugar chains.
Phytic acid, common in cereals, legumes, nuts, and oilseeds, binds minerals, proteins, and starch. This leads to reduced absorption, digestion, solubility, and functionality of these components.
While quinoa’s nutritional value is high, its anti-nutritional content could pose risks, affecting the absorption and utilization of essential nutrients (1).
How does sprouted quinoa enhance the nutritional composition of one’s diet?
Lately, more people are leaning towards healthier eating habits, and that’s where sprouted seeds come into play. They’ve gained popularity as functional foods that can lower the risk of various diseases and boost overall well-being. Sprouted seeds, like quinoa, showcase this concept well.
During the germination process, important components like vitamins, amino acids, phenolic compounds, and minerals get a boost (1).
In contrast, certain unwanted elements like oligosaccharides, phytic acid, cyanogenic glycosides, and trypsin inhibitors decrease (1).
This transformation in nutrient composition is what makes sprouted quinoa a potentially better choice for health-conscious individuals aiming to optimize their diet.
How to safely sprout raw quinoa?
Sprouting raw quinoa can make it easier to digest. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to safely sprout raw quinoa (4):
1. Cleansing: Begin by thoroughly washing the raw quinoa to eliminate any bitterness caused by saponins. Soaking Stage: Place the quinoa in a bowl, covering it with about two to three times its volume in water. Allow it to soak for a span of two to four hours.
2. Drain and rinse: After the soaking period, drain the quinoa and rinse it under cold water.
3. Arranging for sprouting: Employ either a fine mesh strainer or a sprouting jar covered with cloth. Keep this in a warm and dark location.
4. Regular rinsing: Perform rinsing twice a day, using cold water. Drain and then return the quinoa to the chosen setup.
5. Observing germination: Throughout 1 to 3 days, you’ll notice tiny tails emerging from the quinoa grains, indicating the sprouting process.
6. Harvesting phase: Once the sprouts measure between 1/8 to 1/4 inch in length, ensure a thorough rinsing to eliminate starch. Utilization: Immediately incorporate the sprouted quinoa into your dishes or store it in the refrigerator within a well-sealed container.
Note: Regularly check for any mould or unusual odours. If such signs are present, it’s advisable to dispose of the sprouts. Successful sprouting hinges on maintaining appropriate moisture levels and adhering to cleanliness protocols (4).
Other FAQs about Quinoa that you may be interested in.
In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question ‘Can you eat raw quinoa?’. Yes, you can eat quinoa raw or uncooked if it is sprouted first; but experts recommend cooking to avoid anti-nutrient risks.
Demir B, Bilgiçli N. Changes in chemical and anti-nutritional properties of pasta enriched with raw and germinated quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) flours. Journal of Food Science and Technology. 2020 Oct;57(10):3884-92. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13197-020-04420-7
Pereira E, Encina-Zelada C, Barros L, Gonzales-Barron U, Cadavez V, C.F.R. Ferreira I. Chemical and nutritional characterization of Chenopodium quinoa Willd (quinoa) grains: A good alternative to nutritious food. Food Chem [Internet]. 2019;280:110–4.
Pereira E, Cadavez V, Barros L, Encina-Zelada C, Stojković D, Sokovic M, et al. Chenopodium quinoa Willd. (quinoa) grains: A good source of phenolic compounds. Food Res Int [Internet]. 2020;137:109574.